… could I … count backwards a score of years, it would not be long before [my grand-daughter] Ellen and myself would pay our homage personally to [you and Mr. Adams in] Quincy [Massachusetts]. But those twenty years! Alas! where are they? … Our next meeting must then be in the country to which they have flown,—a country for us not now very distant … I heard once a very old friend, who had troubled himself with neither poets nor philosophers, say … that he was tired of pulling off his shoes and stockings at night, and putting them on again in the morning …
On the whole, however, perhaps it is wise and well to be contented with the good things which the master of the feast places before us, and to be thankful for what we have, rather than thoughtful about what we have not. You and I, dear Madam, have already had more than an ordinary portion of life, and more, too, of health than the general measure. On this score I owe boundless thankfulness.
… that life and health may be continued to you as many years as yourself shall wish, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate and respectful friend.
To Abigail Adams, January 11, 1817
Selected Writings of TJ, by Koch & Peden, Pages 618-9
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Old and thoughtful leaders cherish friendships and remain grateful.
The 73 year old Jefferson wrote to the 72 year old wife of his friend John Adams. The two men had put their differences aside when they resumed their friendship in 1813, but Abigail may never have completely forgiven Jefferson for the offenses her husband suffered at Republican hands. Still, Jefferson enjoyed the company of intellectual women, and Abigail certainly fit that mold.
Always seeking common ground, he turned to their shared experience in old age. Jefferson appreciated the full lives and good health both had enjoyed. He repeated a common theme of gratitude for what he did have rather than longing for what he lacked. For those blessings, he credited “the master of the feast.”
There would be a final business-like correspondence several months later. Abigail requested letters of introduction for a young friend traveling to France. Jefferson responded as best as he could. Though his benediction wished her many more years, Abigail Adams died 21 months later, October 28, 1818.
Thomas Jefferson desires to begin or renew a friendship with your audience!
Invite him to inspire, teach and entertain!